Abstract Detail

Botanical foundations for perennial agriculture: Evolution and ecology of perennial herbaceous plants

Herron, Sterling [1], Ciotir, E. Claudia [1], Miller, Allison [1].

Botanical foundations for perennial agriculture: Evolution and ecology of perennial herbaceous plants.

Herbaceous perennial plants form the foundation of the prairie and grassland biomes of the world, as well as important members of our own cultivated gardens and fields. Distinct from annual and woody perennial life histories, the herbaceous perennial habit offers a distinct suite of traits and habits found in the former: herbaceous growth, relatively swift reproductive output, but also an extensive and long-lasting root system. The herbaceous perennial growth form itself is extraordinarily diverse, with individuals living three years to centuries, as well as differing patterns of morphology, genetic load, and reproduction. Given temporal constraints on studying these long-lived species, research monitoring their growth and reproduction over multiple years is relatively rare, yet crucial to understanding this life history and its role in natural communities. This is also of economic interest as many of our established root, forage, and vegetable crops are herbaceous perennials, e.g., horseradish, potato, alfalfa, rhubarb, and cassava. Herbaceous perennials have recently been identified as potential alternative grain crop candidates, with the goal of creating an effectively closed, prairie-like agroecological system, retaining nutrients and water and requiring minimal chemical inputs. Such a system would simultaneously need high seed yield and high root allocation to be viable. However, it is unclear if selection for a large root system and enhanced reproductive output are mutually exclusive, i.e., are there inherent vegetative-reproductive trade-offs that make this co-selection impracticable, and does this differ among plant families? These questions are of distinct importance as plant breeders begin to consider de novo domestication of wild perennial species. Also, how will herbaceous perennial species fare in response to climate change? As an intermediate form between woody and annual, will their generational turnover prove to be adequate to adapt to rapid anthropogenic environmental modification? Also, the annual and perennial life history have shown to be a plastic trait in plant evolutionary history, both on the population and species level, having evolved independently from one another numerous times. However, precise drivers and typical directions of this shift are not established. Better understanding environmental correlates and some common phenotypic and genotypic bases for life history strategies can aide us in understanding their fundamental nature and allometry.

1 - Saint Louis University, Biology, Biology Extension Building, 1008 S Spring Ave, St Louis, MO, 63110, USA

herbaceous perennial
perennial crop
perennial evolution
plant life history
perennial agriculture
perennial climate change
root allocation
shoot allocation

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Abstract ID:24
Candidate for Awards:None

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